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In the News

Azerbaijan - a new gateway to the world

Total Politics, copied from Trend AZ

July 25, 2012

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 25 / Trend /

A British magazine 'Total Politics' published an article about Azerbaijan.

Fast coming to prominence, Baku, the modern heart of Azerbaijan, is a garden of world-beating skyscrapers and stunning architecture, while the country's oil reserves could soon place it at the centre of world trade.

"Azerbaijan's success is obvious. The state budget has increased 16 times, thousands of schools, hundreds of health institutions and dozens of sports complexes have been built in the country.

The poverty level has decreased five times - from around 49 per cent to 9 per cent. Our lovely capital city, Baku, has changed much, as well as the outer-lying regions.

This clearly demonstrates the scale and level of development in Azerbaijan. However, in spite of all this, there is still much to be done in the non-commercial area, firstly in the cultural sphere.

Today, the world knows Azerbaijan as an exporter of oil and gas, but our history and culture are important aspects of our national heritage," the magazine quotes First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Dr Mehriban Aliyeva as saying.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT AZERBAIJAN?

Historically, Azerbaijan was spread over a very large territory, stretching from the Greater Caucasus Mountains to the Sefid Rud ('rud' means 'river') in northern Iran. Important caravan trading routes, such as the Great Silk Road, used to pass through the Azerbaijani territories, linking ancient civilizations, namely the Sumerians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Iranians, Turks, Indians, Chinese and others. Each aimed to expand its culture and beliefs in Azerbaijan, and before Azerbaijan chose its current religion, Islam, it experienced all the major religions of the world.

Young, independent Azerbaijan faces the challenging task of restoring and preserving this rich heritage. Thanks to efficient, workable domestic and foreign policies the country has been rapidly developing over recent years. There has been a tangible 300 per cent increase in GDP during the last eight years, and implementation of various economic, social and environmental projects has strongly influenced the welfare of its nine million population.
After gaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan began pursuing an independent foreign policy, which targeted the systematic strengthening and development of statehood and the protection of national interests. Azerbaijan is building its foreign policy based on the norms of international law as well as the principle of respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs.

Guided by these principles and long-term national interests, Azerbaijani foreign policy stands as a staunch barrier against threats to its independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security, at the forefront of which is defence against neighbouring Armenia, a fellow member with Azerbaijan of the Council of Europe. As a result of this conflict, 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territories have been occupied, and around one million IDPs and refugees are unable to return to their homeland. This continues, despite the fact that the UN has adopted four resolutions demanding immediate withdrawal of troops from occupied territories.

However, in spite of this, it is a priority of Azerbaijan's foreign policy to establish regional peace and security, through the achievement of such strategic objectives as the implementation of co-operation, and major transport objects. The objective also includes attracting foreign investment.

Azerbaijan has chosen a democratic route to development, based on bilateral and multilateral relations, in various fields, with our neighbours, to the equal and mutual benefit of all.
Azerbaijan has been expanding and deepening its activities as an independent state on regional and global levels. The country became a member of a number of international organisations, among others the UN, the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Azerbaijan is also one of the founders of the regional groupings of the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development (GUAM).

And Azerbaijan's special focus in the European arena has come about through both the republic's implementation of foreign policy and its deep interest in its global partners. Modern circumstances create a unique opportunity for the formation of the European security structure and common welfare, based on a new model of influence and responsibilities, and on genuine partnership and co-operation. That is why Azerbaijan is working hard to develop its links with such organisations as NATO and the European Union. It is an active member of their anti-terror coalition (ISAF, as part of EAPC) in Afghanistan.

The author of the exploration and implementation of these policies was the president, Heydar Aliyev. His sense of statehood, profound logic and insight made international relations in such a complicated geographical region possible. And his follower, Ilham Aliyev, has maintained his father's dedication towards furthering relations with the world community, and to the long-term development and welfare provision of his country.

THE CONTRACT OF THE CENTURY

One of the milestone events for the country was the signing of as been named the 'Contract of the Century'. This took place on September 20, in Baku between the 12 internationally recognised oil companies, representing eight countries. This contract allows the exploration of the three major oil fields in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea, and it was not only a turning point for Azerbaijan's 150-year-old oil industry - immediately after its inauguration, 27 contracts with 43 oil companies from 21 countries were signed. This brought around US $60bn into the oil industry, which forms the basis the country's future oil strategy - but it also paved the way for development of reliable world political and economic partnerships. After the signing of the contract, there was an influx of foreign investments into other fields of the economy.

In November 1997, the first 'Contract of Century' oil was extracted. From June 1999, BP has been the contract's only operator with a 34.14 per cent share.

At the contract's signing ceremony, assessing the importance of this historic event, President Heydar Aliyev said: "I am very happy to be a part of the preparation and signing of this contract. I understand the responsibility that this contract puts on me, and I hope that the coming generations will honourably appreciate this historic moment that is happening here now."

IN THE PIPELINE

Until mid-2006, the Baku-Novorossiysk and Baku-Supsa Pipelines - with capacities of between five and seven million tons of oil per year - were used to transport Azerbaijani oil to the world markets. However, in order to get oil output to 50 million tons per year for world markets, a new project was implemented by President Heydar Aliyev to increase the transportation capacity of the main export pipeline.

In 1998, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (the BTC) route was selected as the main export pipeline. In September 2002, its foundations were laid in Baku, and by May 2006, the first transportation of its viscous cargo began. Azerbaijan's economic development accelerated.

In 2007, Azerbaijan entered the world energy market as an exporter not only of crude oil but also of oil products. The construction of a new terminal oil plant - capacity: 200,000 barrels - began in Ceyhan, a Turkish port on the Mediterranean, and in spring 2008 an Azerbaijani terminal was built at Kulevi, Georgia.

AZERBAIJANI CARPETS THROUGHOUT HISTORY

An important part of Azerbaijan's rich spiritual and cultural heritage, horizons and aesthetics is carpet-making. Carpet weaving has taken place in Azerbaijan since the Bronze Age. Archaeological artefacts and manuscripts prove that in 2000 BC, the use of carpets was common. According to the records of early European travellers, Azerbaijan was important in carpet production all over the eastern world.

Azerbaijan's natural beauty, its history, economy and social life have inspired carpet design, and there is a wide variety. Every region is renowned for its particular carpet products, and weaving schools carry the names of these regions: Guba, Shirvan, Baku, Ganja, Gazakh, Karabakh, Nakhchivan and Tabriz.

The sophisticated ornamentation and colourful compositions of Azerbaijani carpets have been famous worldwide since the Middle Ages. German and English travellers and ambassadors throughout the 15th to 18th centuries wrote much about the picturesque carpets, and European artists depicted them in artwork.

Hans Memling's Madonna Enthroned (1490-1491) shows a fine example of a Karabakh school carpet, of 'Mughan' composition, while Carlo Crivelli's Annunciation with Saint Emidius (1486) depicts a Gazakh carpet lying over the balcony of an upper storey.

The best samples of Azerbaijani carpets can be found in the world's museums, such as New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre, Paris, and London's V&A.

In 1967 the first world carpet museum was established in Baku, containing full collections of 18th to 20th century carpets, representing all schools, and on November 16, 2010, the art of Azerbaijani carpet-making was included in the list of UNESCO's world heritage skills.

AZERBAIJANI 'MUGHAM'

Completing the cultural landscape of Azerbaijan, 'Mugham' is an important part of the oral heritage of the professional musical culture of Azerbaijan, and it has deep roots in our cultural tradition and history. Forming the basis of folk musical composition, it bubbles up into all artistic life, and defines the work of artists, sculptors and poets.

It has family links with Iranian dastgah, Uyghur Muqam, Indian Rags, Arab Nubs and Turkish Taksims, which are integral parts of eastern music. Mugham art and music are considered by Azerbaijanis to be one of our most important cultural values, and is an integral part of our national identity.

The artistic value of Azerbaijani Mugham, its significance for both the national culture and human culture generally was acknowledged in 2003 by UNESCO, which named it one of the "masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage".

Azerbaijani Mugham, which contains sub-rhythms and styles including Zerb-mugam, Heyrati, Arazbari and Ovshari, possess a wealth of improvisation and colour not found in other traditions.

BAKU - CITY OF THE FUTURE

Frequent travellers to Baku marvel at how quickly this city is transforming. In recent years, the Azerbaijani capital has experienced a construction boom, and a large number of office and residential buildings, cultural centres and city infrastructures have been developed, nestling alongside the city's classical architecture. And some of our modern architectural wonders, creations of world-famous architects and designers, are already being touted as world architectural masterpieces.

Perhaps the grandest project has been the construction of the city's tallest flagpost, at 162 metres high, from which the national flag was first flown on 1 September, 2010. The flag, 35 metres wide and 70 metres long, can be seen from all around the capital, and is located on National Flag Square. This project was developed by American company Trident Support, and subcontracted to Azenko.

The Azerbaijani flag is one of the country's official symbols. It was introduced on 9 November, 1918, as the state flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - which existed until 1920 - and reinstated on 5 February, 1991, as the country regained independence to become the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Another no less grandiose Baku project is the Flame Towers complex, named after Azerbaijan's nickname, 'Land of Fire'. Its three towers, resembling flames, are located on a hill with a view over to the Bay of Baku, and due to illumination at night, can be seen from all points of the city.

Due for completion this year, the 30-storey tower will accommodate a 250-room hotel, the 28-storey structure will be a business centre, and the tallest, at 33 storeys, will be a residential tower containing 130 flats. The total complex covers 243,500 square metres.

OTHER INNOVATIVE MUNICIPAL BUILDING PROJECTS

"SOCAR embraces" (SOCAR - State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic), the new SOCAR head office, developed by Heerim Architects.

THE HEYDAR ALIYEV CULTURAL CENTRE

The architectural concept behind its stunning waveform design is a synthesis of "waves-liquids-skin-wrinkles", and it is the brainchild of world-famous Arabic female architect Zaha Hadid, the creator of the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, Glasgow's Transport Museum, and Innsbruck's cable railway. According to Hadid, the world started to show interest in her work after the construction of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in 1997. The Cultural Centre, opened officially on May 10, 2012, is equipped with a conference hall accommodating 1,280 people, a library housing unique works of Azerbaijani and world authors, a media centre, exhibition halls, and multimedia and virtual exhibitions dedi¬cated to the history and heritage of Azerbaijan.

THE AZERBAIJAN TOWER

Due to take the crown from the brief king of the skies, United Arab Emirates' Burj-khalifa, is the Azerbaijan Tower. The creation of the Avesta Group, the 1,050-metre-high building has been sited on the Khazar Islands, an archipelago of 41 man-made islands in the Caspian Sea to the south-west of Baku. Construction is slated for completion in 2018-19, and its surrounding complex will offer state of the art facilities, from hospitals and daycare centres to residential centres, schools, parks, and a Formula 1 racetrack. These projects have not gone unnoticed, and in December 2010 the Discovery Channel group visited Baku, filmed the Flame Towers, Heydar Aliyev Centre and State Flag Square, and broadcasted them to the world in a programme called Build It Bigger/ Extreme Engineering. And to complement all of these, in place of the old industrial district of the capital, known as "The Black City", a new exclusive project called the Baku White City will be built. Its development has been entrusted to British company Atkins UK, the company that built the skyscraping, seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai, and is currently the authorised architectural engineering consultant for London 2012. Atkins UK, with Azerbaijani specialists, American company F+A Architects (Mall of the Emirates, Dubai), and the bureau of legendary architect Sir Norman Foster, Foster + Partners (London's "Gherkin"; the Reichstag dome) will use a combination of styles, including French balconies, two-storey mansards with graffittied roofs, and futuristic, green glass towers. Baku White City will vie with Dubai as one of the biggest modern architectural projects. It will cover an area greater than Monaco, becoming the biggest development in the Caucasus, and its population will compared to that of Andorra. It will add 1.3km to Baku Boulevard, turning it into the world's longest boulevard.

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